The devastating famine in northern Ethiopia in the 1980s robbed Elias Yimer of both his parents when he was five years old. After finding a new home in the SOS Children’s Village Harar, he grew into a successful engineer, businessman, family man and humanitarian – someone his parents would be extremely proud of.
Elias is not only a project manager for one of the biggest construction companies in Ethiopia, but also started his own construction company where he provides employment to young people who, like him, started out at a disadvantage in life.
After graduating with an advanced diploma in construction technology, Elias was appointed as site supervisor during the construction of the SOS Children’s Village Gode. His experience and expertise were recognised by Elmi Olindo Construction, the biggest of its kind in Ethiopia, where Elias has been leading its biggest projects for the past eight years. There are currently 600 people working under him.
Elias Yimer. Photographer: SOS Archives
However, for the 37-year old husband and father of three sons it was never enough just to work and look after his own family. He has always been committed to help struggling young people to become self-reliant. One way of doing this, is through his own construction company where he employs more than 200 permanent and temporary staff members.
Elias says he is fortunate to own three homes in different parts of Ethiopia. In one of them, he took in a needy family consisting of a couple and their two children. Several former SOS Children’s Village young people who are now university students have also come to rely on Elias. The young people studying close to where he has a home spend weekends with him and his family and are supported financially and in other ways.
“I have a dream like our father, Hermann Gmeiner, to extend family support, especially for those children who have no one to take care of them,” says Elias. His best memories of SOS Children’s Village Harar is of “true love and peace” – something he wishes for every child.
“Elias is a role model and a source of inspiration for the youth in SOS Children’s Villages, because he is hardworking and dedicated to change not only his own life, but also those of others. He is also a source of support and inspiration for adults who grew up in SOS Children’s Villages.”
Mr Mehari Tewoldeberhan, SOS Children’s Village Co-worker.